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Letter #131: In the Beginning
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Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 17 2013, 4:37pm

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Letter #131: In the Beginning Can't Post

Hello Fellowship of the Room!

I'm thrilled to lead off this discussion of a fascinating insight, in the man's own words, into JRRT's world and creative process over the next four weeks. I will move somewhat in order of the topics covered within the Letter, but at times a thematic question may be more inclusive of several Ages. At times other Letters and works will be referenced in passing - but you do not have to have access to them all to join in this discussion.
You can discuss as many or as few points as you like - feel free to respond to whatever interests you.
As people have posted in other threads, there are various ways to get the Letter, and I hope you have had a look at it - if not, what are you waiting for? Wink
He plaintively finishes with "I wonder if you will ever read this?" I hope you both read and enjoy, and I can't wait to read your thoughts.


The Letter leads off with JRRT describing it as a 'resume' of his efforts in the hope of persuading the intended reader that The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion were 'interdependent and indivisible'.

** On his desire for creating an "English" myth: "Also - and here I hope I shall not sound absurd - I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own (bound up with its tongue and soil), not of the quality that I sought, and found (as an ingredient) in legends of other lands. There was Greek, and Celtic, and Romance, Germanic, Scandinavian, and Finnish (which greatly affected me); but nothing English, save impoverished chap-book stuff. Of course there was and is all the Arthurian world, but powerful as it is, it is imperfectly naturalized, associated with the soil of Britain but not with English; and does not replace what I felt to be missing. For one thing its 'faerie' is too lavish, and fantastical, incoherant and repetitive...
"Do not laugh! But once upon a time (my crest has long since fallen) I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogenic, to the level of romantic fairy-story - the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing splendor from the vast backcloths - which I could dedicate simply to: to England; to my country."

So in summation, JRRT's assesment of what suited the English myth would be more spare, more based in reality, coherent and clear ("somewhat cool and clear, be redolent of our 'air'...and, while possessing [if I could achieve it] the fair elusive beauty that some call Celtic...") and singular, not repetitive . He speaks of levels of tale and scale, with a framework (like stages with their sceneries) uniting them. So, let's start with a straighforward question: based on his goals, and what he achieved, how close to or far from the mark do you feel he is?


**JRRT extensively addresses his view of the nature of literature as 'escape' in On Fairy Stories. He also addresses it here in the Letter:
"For another and more important thing: it is involved in, and explicitly contains the Christian religion. For reasons which I will not elaborate, that seems to me fatal. Myth and fairy-story must, as all art, reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error), but not explicit, not in the known of the primary 'real' world. (...And I will not repeat to you what I tried to say in my essay, which you read.") [Note: I believe the reference here is to 'On Fairy Stories'.]

And a famous phrase that we can address: "I dislike Allegory - the conscious and intentional allegory - yet any attempt to attempt to explain the purport of myth or fairytale must use allegorical language. (And , of course, the more 'life' a story has the more readily will it be susceptible of allegorical interpretations: while the better a deliberate allegory is made the more nearly it will be acceptable just as a story.) Anyway this stuff is mainly concerned with Fall, Mortality and the Machine...In the cosmogony there is a fall: a fall of Angels we should say. Though quite different in form, of course, to that of the Christian myth...there cannot be any story without a fall." (bold by me)

So here is, in his own words, the rationale for creating a non-Christian cosmogony; do you find this approach unusual for someone whose real-life faith was very strong, or not?
Falls seem to drive the tales forward, don't they? Why do you think JRRT felt that a fall was needed as the basis for a mythos?

**His perceptions of the uses of Allegory I find interesting, laid out, as it were like a choice: write a story full of 'life' and be hounded with armchair analysts (whoever would that be?) forever, propounding theories and perceived connections. Or write a clear allegory - but accept that the tale, as just a tale, will simply remain on the paper? Is that truly the two options available to writers of fantasy? And do you think that affected his choices in not creating an obtrusively Christian universe?

The phrase, "Fall, Mortality and the Machine." In the sense of the entire legendarium, do all these elements relate to the various races and tales, the great 'backdrop' story of Arda - or can you see it as the summation of the journey of Man alone? Or something else?
"I have not used 'magic' consistently...but the Elves are there (in my tales) to demonstrate the difference." He refers to the 'magic' of the Elves as Art: with the quick and complete object of sub-creation. Later the 'magic' of the Enemy is equated with the Machine, and Domination. So where does "Magic" fit, in this scheme, and how does it relate to the 'magic' of other works and authors?

**"I would draw some of the tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. Absurd." (A small personal confession: I love and feel so much sincerety in his use of the word "Absurd!" that when I write it or say it, I feel like I ought to attribute it to JRRT, like a quote.) Tolkien seems at times to be generally open to the idea of filmed adaptations (as long as they were not 'Disnified.') What are your thoughts on this statement, both about the man and the concept of 'other minds and hands'.


Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








(This post was edited by Brethil on Sep 17 2013, 4:39pm)


Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens

Sep 17 2013, 7:35pm

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The fall, free will and redemption [In reply to] Can't Post

The one thing that I've always heard in Tolkien's voice as I read his works is his belief in redemption by choices that are able to be made because free will. So, I'd like to address the question of "the fall".

This is not a purely Christian motif, of course. There is good and evil in all tales of all cultures and movement between the two happens all the time. The path to redemption has to start with tripping and falling into the mud. What I see as a thread in all Tolkien's works is the matter of choice. There is very little real pure evil but there is plenty of characters who crave power (or other "things") and thus make choices that lead to evil.

These characters sometimes create lesser beings to do their dirty work and those beings "feel" more like pure evil, but in reality they seem to me to be those inhabitants of ME with less of a sense of self, less of a sense of their own free will, slaves to their masters. We don't see a bunch of orcs making sure that a wounded comrade is cared for, we see them eat him! Lesser beings (shall we think of them as sub-human or not?) have little free will, follow the blind path trod by their masters and propagate evil, but do not, in my view, create it on their own.

So, the fall is through choice, free will being exercised in a grasp for something for one's self. Evil is done to get what one wants without regard for others. But in some cases, the character realizes the error and then makes the choice to correct his path. Tolkien gives them the chance, also through free will, to choose to rise from the mud. He believes in redemption but also knows that not everyone will succeed. As small a matter as stealing pipe weed to as large as leading a kingdom towards its demise but pulling back in the last moments to die a hero's death make the fall necessary so that a character can rise.

Redemption may (or may not) come through the exercise of freewill but the *story* starts with the fall.

“Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

(This post was edited by Dame Ioreth on Sep 17 2013, 7:42pm)


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 18 2013, 12:11am

Post #3 of 58 (380 views)
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The noble can't exist without the simple [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
The one thing that I've always heard in Tolkien's voice as I read his works is his belief in redemption by choices that are able to be made because free will. So, I'd like to address the question of "the fall".

This is not a purely Christian motif, of course. There is good and evil in all tales of all cultures and movement between the two happens all the time. The path to redemption has to start with tripping and falling into the mud. What I see as a thread in all Tolkien's works is the matter of choice. There is very little real pure evil but there is plenty of characters who crave power (or other "things") and thus make choices that lead to evil.

These characters sometimes create lesser beings to do their dirty work and those beings "feel" more like pure evil, but in reality they seem to me to be those inhabitants of ME with less of a sense of self, less of a sense of their own free will, slaves to their masters. We don't see a bunch of orcs making sure that a wounded comrade is cared for, we see them eat him! Lesser beings (shall we think of them as sub-human or not?) have little free will, follow the blind path trod by their masters and propagate evil, but do not, in my view, create it on their own.

So, the fall is through choice, free will being exercised in a grasp for something for one's self. Evil is done to get what one wants without regard for others. But in some cases, the character realizes the error and then makes the choice to correct his path. Tolkien gives them the chance, also through free will, to choose to rise from the mud. He believes in redemption but also knows that not everyone will succeed. As small a matter as stealing pipe weed to as large as leading a kingdom towards its demise but pulling back in the last moments to die a hero's death make the fall necessary so that a character can rise.

Redemption may (or may not) come through the exercise of freewill but the *story* starts with the fall.




Excellent ideas Ioreth!

I agree, that the mechanism of free will can be used either way: to sink deeper, or to rise higher. In other Letters JRRT mentions that the noble cannot exist without the mean (paraphrasing) and that he is fascinated by the interplay between them, and by the ennoblement of the ignoble and small. So I think you summed that up, in the sense that there can be no rise without a fall first. And that is where the idea of fate vs free will becomes active; maybe the Fall is fate: something inevitable and beyond the control of the living. But their choices, their free will, remains theirs.

That's a delicate balancing act, isn't it: in a world where the divine sort of pop in for tea daily and predictions and fated events are foreseen, how do you keep the actual idea of Free Will alive?

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








Terazed
Bree

Sep 18 2013, 1:09am

Post #4 of 58 (403 views)
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On religion (and allegory) [In reply to] Can't Post

Let me address Tolkien's comments on religion and myth from a historical prospective. I might also cover a bit on allegory as well. I will open up with a quote from Wagner (and I know you are thinking oh no anyone but Wagner). Why Wagner? Because he was the first artist to sit down and actually think at length and write down what creating a mythos was truly about.


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One might say that where Religion becomes artificial, it is reserved for Art to save the spirit of religion by recognizing the figurative value of the mythic symbols which the former would have us believe in their literal sense, and revealing their deep and hidden truth through an ideal presentation. Whilst the priest stakes everything on the religious allegories being accepted as matters of fact, the artist has no concern at all with such a thing since he freely and openly gives out his work as his own invention. But Religion has sunk into artificial life, when she finds herself compelled to keep on adding to the edifice of her dogmatic symbols, and thus conceals the one divinely True in her beneath an ever growing heap of incredibilities commended to belief. Feeling this, she has always sought the aid of Art; who on her side has remained incapable of higher evolution so long as she must present alleged reality of the symbol to the senses of the worshiper in the form of fetishes and idols,-whereas she could only fulfill her true vocation when, by an ideal presentment of the allegoric figure, she led to the apprehension of its inner kernel, the truth ineffably divine.


There is plenty in there that I am sure a religion man such a Tolkien would disagree with. The main point however is the same in letter 131 and Wagner in "Religion and Art". Art, in order to get to the core of what religion is about, must be freed from simple religious allegory. The purpose of creating a mythos is to explore what it is that human beings need to get from religion. I am not talking about lists of thou shalts and thou shalt nots. I mean more the ineffable needs and feelings that humans get from religion. Spirituality might be a better word for it though not precisely. Joseph Campbell's works in the 20th century get into this concept in great detail.

None of these ideas come from a vacuum of course. "Fall, Mortality, and the Machine" are as good terms as any for themes of the age of romanticism which of course produced such works as 'Frankenstein' and 'Dracula'. If you change machine (magic) to power as Tolkien implies then they are universal themes as well. Follow your heart and return to the ideals of nature were major themes of the age of romanticism and in Tolkien as well. The romantics saw that scientific knowledge was destroying religion, which did not so much trouble most of them as the loss of the spiritual truths that were in traditional religion. They feared a world of machines where power was the moral force, much like in the third age the world Sauron wants to create is to be feared. The intellectual Saruman falls prey to the logical inevitability of it. Gandalf, who follows his heart, does not. Wagner made the ring itself a symbol of that world:


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Just as its gold once endowed me with might beyond measure so shall now its spell now deal death to whoever shall wear it! No joyful man shall ever have joy of it; on no happy man shall its bright gleam smile; may he who owns it be wracked by care, and he who does not be ravaged by greed! Each man shall covet its acquisition, but non shall enjoy it to lasting gain; its lord shall guard it without profit, and yet it shall draw down his bane upon him. Doomed to die, may the coward be fettered by fear; as long as he lives, let him pine away, languishing, lord of the ring as slave of the ring till the stolen circlet I hold in my hand once again! And so in direst need the NIbelung blesses his ring. - keep it now


Tolkien uses the same them over and over again as well. It is not just in Sauron and the Ring, it is also in fall of the Feonorians in the first age and the Numenoreans in the second. The solution to the riddle not just for Wagner and Tolkien but for all the romantics was to reject power for love. This of course is also a major spiritual need seen in many religions.


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 18 2013, 3:39pm

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Fantastic parallels Terazed! [In reply to] Can't Post


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Let me address Tolkien's comments on religion and myth from a historical prospective. I might also cover a bit on allegory as well. I will open up with a quote from Wagner (and I know you are thinking oh no anyone but Wagner). Why Wagner? (***got me chuckling there Terazed... ***)

Your reply got me thinking about JRRT and science, and how the Romantic idea is applied.

That quote by Wagner reminds me a just a little of that bit Sherlock Holmes has in The Naval Treaty - (though its theme is different. It also might be my cold medication kicking in....)
"There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as religion," said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. "It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers."

I like your historical perspective here. Coming a full generation later, I can see how many of the Romantic ideals influenced JRRT. Certainly he agreed with their perceptions of the rising of mechanical societies dehumanizing (and perhaps even worse to him, deforesting) the world that he saw around him; particularly with affection, the countryside.
He has an interesting mix , doesn't he, of the deep desire for the scientific in the sense of passive observation (as he describes Bombadil for example: "...a particular embodying of pure (real) natural science: the spirit that desires knowledge of other things, their history and nature, because they are 'other' and wholly independent of the enquiring mind, a spirit coeval with the rational mind, and entirely unconcerned with 'doing' anything with the knowledge: Zoology and Botany not Cattle-breeding and agriculture." (#153)

So science here is pure learning: without affecting change upon what it studies. It relates to what he says about the effects of Mortality on sub-creation: "especially as it affects art and the creative (or, as I should say, sub-creative) desire which seems to have no biological function, and to be apart from the satisfaction of plain ordinary biological life, with which, in our world, is indeed usually at strife." Again, science as learning and not as a function of biological life or as interfering with the patterns of life within nature and outside of ourselves. And the Fall comes about when "the sub-creator wishes to be Lord and God of his private creation."

Wait, who does that sound like...you summed that up here, and it brings us around from sub-creation to a Fall:
The intellectual Saruman falls prey to the logical inevitability of it. Gandalf, who follows his heart, does not. (Terazed)



Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








(This post was edited by Brethil on Sep 18 2013, 3:41pm)


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Sep 18 2013, 9:26pm

Post #6 of 58 (350 views)
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Thoughts and Random Ramblings..... [In reply to] Can't Post

Firstly, I think that his efforts were quite close to what he wanted in an "English" mythos. There is a palpable Anglo-Saxon influence that impresses itself upon me.The illustration of Beorn's hall recalls the idea of Beowulf's feasting hall. Finally, Rohan epitomizes this cultural effect. The Golden Hall, feasting, poetic histories, and storied banners, perfectly encapsulate my visions of Saxony.

On the second point, I would repeat a sentiment that I have stated elsewhere. How interesting is a story about 'perfect' people, living 'perfect' lives, and always doing the right thing, nothing ever happening out of the ordinary? This may be enough for a Hobbit, but certainly not for Great Tales, nor legends. How would we know there is a higher path, if we always take that high road? If every man lived on the mountain, we would never know the joys of the summer meadows. What good is a protagonist without someone to oppose him? The best stories are not tales of perfect people, but of those who make the mistakes, and need to resolve them. That is the very element of plot--a problem that needs to be overcome. A 'fall' is essential to any story, so that the characters may climb back to that place whence they had came, or to reach a new level of satisfaction in life.

As to non-Christian element, I say this: our dear Professor had a strong and healthy faith. He had things that he held to be true, and by faith, knew they were true. Truth is true, no matter the circumstances, and ignorance of the precise philosophical terms and minutiae, doesn't preclude the expression of it in the common person's life. A child can help another in pain, not because there is a Golden Rule/Karma/Some religious leader taught them that they should, but because it feels right, with a total absence of any religious influence or teaching. Tolkien seemed to have injected this grounding factor as, what I will call, fate, into the lives of his characters. That fate bound them to the Great Music's pattern. They cannot stray too far from truth/good/what ever have you, without a conscious effort to reject it and proceed in a different path. Truth can be found in many places, Christianity teaches kindness, and other religious systems may do the same. Does that mean it is wrong to be kind, because one belief system doesn't hold a monopoly on it? Isn't it a bit vain to suppose that only one person can hold truth, and that you cannot possess only a part of it? Men can be evil in one area, yet kind in another. We can pick and choose the elements of truth that we accept. We can draw good lessons from LotR. Not necessarily trying to get messages from the 'Valar', looking for the 'Secret Fire', or believing that the world was made by Music.( Some of that can get you committed!!Wink), but learning about friendship, honor, duty, and nobility. The world would benefit from this, even if we cannot get them to LIKE reading the books, or worship Eru. Tolkien has woven universal truths within his narrative, and these truths are free to cross many barriers: physical, national, religious, ideological. Name one place on Earth, and you can bet your life that there is a Tolkien fan there.

On Allegory, there is a natural distaste in the human mind for browbeating, and belabouring of facts. We are all naturally skeptic, just tell a child that E=mc2, and they will ask that age-old question--"Why?" OK, maybe after they say "WHAT??"Tongue. Tolkien has given us a narrative, in which we can choose in many cases, what the interpretation is. We all agree who the Heroes and Villains are, but the abstract interpretation are left to us.

The ''Fall, Mortality, and the Machine'' all sum up the motivation and settings of Tolkien's characters.The 'Fall' gives the original setting, an interesting thing that grabs our attention, or the struggle of Ainu, Elf, Dwarf, Hobbit, or Man. Mortality provides much motivation for Men and Elves, their rejection or misconceptions about it. It also gives a point for the Villains to work from. It could also be seen as the timescale of the story to be told, the plot. Morgoth and Sauron both twisted the meaning to gain support from men, and possibly exploited Elves' immortality to create the terrible servants of evil, orcs The 'Machine' is just an expression of power, some of the Ainur,(Melkor and Sauron figure prominently) and Free Peoples, like us, seek to move upward in life, this providing more of a motivation for characters, mortal and immortal. Here we have setting, plot, and motivation summed up, the essentials of any story.

On 'magic', I would equate it with the natural abilities, and extensions of these, in the native powers of the characters. Arthur C. Clark had a good explanation to which I subscribe. The 'magic' is not a supernatural kind, but a deeper connection with a power beyond the common knowledge. i like to think that the Hobbits could have forged their own Rings of Power, if they had had the knowledge or will to. There might be an interplay of the secret knowledge and native power in the use of 'magic', but the case of Frodo and Bilbo being able to use the One Ring disinclines me to accept this as true. It was dangerous to them, because they were dealing with a greater power, but it seemed to require no skill to use it, excepting their inability master it's power fully.

On the topic of Tolkien's grand intent. He sketched out a grand scheme of things to write, a grand ambition that he sadly never finished. Now this statement tells me that he was not a perfectionist with one view, or aim to interpretation. He was a niggler, and wanted to best communicate the story, but I wouldn't see him too concerned with 'canon' and 'non-canon' issues in his writings. He saw that the stories needed to live and grow, in order to survive. Locking them down, and limiting us to an Authorized mythology would consign his work to appeal to a narrower audience, unable to adapt to the days and times. In many mythologies, the stories have changed drastically and grown to have many versions, and I think that natural process was something that he wanted to come from his works. He could never finish the complete history of Middle-Earth (It would then, not be a story), but he filled what he could for us, leaving a greater land open to our imaginations and speculation. This was his greatest gift to us, his faithful supporters, the freedom to dream, and transport ourselves to another world, Middle-Earth.

Sorry for the wall of text and ramblings..... It was a bit of stream of consciousness..


Terazed
Bree

Sep 18 2013, 11:40pm

Post #7 of 58 (365 views)
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great quote which brings me to noumenon vs phenomenon [In reply to] Can't Post


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There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as religion," said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. "It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers


That is a great quote and sounds very much like what Tolkien is getting at. I can think of several different ways to interpret it but since I am talking about the 19th century philosophy of the romantics let me approach it that way. I will therefore talk about phenomenon and noumenon. This was originally a concept of Immanuel Kant and latter Aurther Schopenhauer modified and made it popular for the romantics. Kant was exploring how thoughts are formed and realized everything we think has to come originally from our senses. Schopenhauer had a great way of expressing the concept:


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“The world is my representation:”—this is a truth which holds good for everything that lives and knows, though man alone can bring it into reflective and abstract consciousness. If he really does this, he has attained to philosophical wisdom. It then becomes clear and certain to him that what he knows is not a sun and an earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels an earth ; that the world which surrounds him is there only as representation, i.e., only in relation to something else, the consciousness, which is himself.


This world of phenomenon is the world that is open to scientific inquiry. We can use reason and scientific instruments to explore and understand it. It is only half the picture though. The other half is noumenon. The noumenon is a reality that is outside of our human senses (even aided by machines and mathematics) to detect. We can never have certain knowledge of noumenon perhaps we can not have any knowledge of it at all. For Kant this was the world where religion resides. Kant then moved on to the concept of practical reason. The human mind will always seek to push reason beyond the limits of the phenomenal world to explore the noumenal world. He goes on to discuss how practical reason though it can never be certain can be used to explore concepts such as religion and ethics. He basically builds a wall which protects religion from destruction by science.

Schopenhauer took Kant's concepts and popularized them by making them much more understandable but he also made an important modification. He thought that while noumenon was not accessible to the senses and therefor to reason, it was accessible to the subconscious. For Schopenhauer while the noumenal world (God) can not be reasoned out it can be felt as emotion welling up from the subconscious. For him the best way to feel noumenon more then fleetingly was through aesthetic contemplation of nature or art (which is why 19th artists adored his philosophy). Schopenhauer also felt that music was the purest expression of the noumenon the we are capable of experiencing aesthetically. He also thought that the only possibility of achieving happiness was though aesthetic contemplation, the world otherwise can only be felt as an unquenchable striving that can never be fulfilled.

This aesthetic contemplation strikes me as precisely what the elves are seeking. I can think of several descriptions of aesthetic contemplation that Tolkien uses in regards to elves especially in Rivendell and Lothlorien. Often there is an accompanying line about how time is different in those lands. Here is an excellent one:


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At first the beauty of the melodies and the interwoven words in the Elven-tongue, even though he understood them little, held him in a spell, as soon as he began to attend them. Almost it seemed that the words took shape, and visions of far lands and bright thing that he never yet imagined opened out before him; and the firelit hall became like a golden mist above the seas of foam that sighed upon the margins of the world. Then the enchantment became more and more dreamlike, until he felt that an endless river of swelling gold and silver was flowing over him, too multitudinous for its pattern to be comprehended; it became part of the throbbing air about him, and it drenched and drowned him. Swiftly he sank under its shining weight into a deep realm of sleep. There he wandered long in a dream of music that turned into running water, and then suddenly into a voice.


It is a great description of aesthetic contemplation exposing the subconscious world of the noumenon. (It is also a great description of what happens to a Wagnarian such as C.S Lewis when they listen to Parsifal by the way). Wagner said it a bit more concisely, "Here time becomes space." when he describes being in the land of the Holy Grail. Here again is Wagner with a quote very much like Tolkien's. They are Isolde's last words as she dies the "love-death" in Tristan und Isolde and the Tristan chord which he leaves suspended through the entire opera to create subconscious tension is at last resolved:


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Do I alone hear this melody so wondrously and gently sounding from within him, in bliss lamenting, all-expressing, gently reconciling, piercing me, soaring aloft, its sweet echoes resounding about me? Are they gentle aerial waves ringing out clearly, surging around me? Are they billows of blissful fragrance? As they seethe and roar about me, shall I breathe, shall I give ear? Shall I drink of them, plunge beneath them? Breathe my life away in sweet scents? In the heaving swell, in the resounding echoes, in the universal stream of the world-breath - to drown, to founder - unconscious -utmost rapture!


Well I think I may have digressed a little there but that is my favorite quote from Tolkien which always makes me think about music. Anyway to get back to the point, I hope that I expressed a little of the concept of elven "magic" as noumenon and machine magic as phenomenon. I perhaps should once again state that noumenon is outside of time and is a happy, blissful contemplation while phenomenon is an unhappy and ultimately futile striving for goal that either can not be achieved or if achieved grants only a brief instant of pleasure before the striving starts anew.

I will have to reply to the rest latter since has taken me a while to put down already. Perhaps you can see how what I said already ties into the second part of your post:


Quote
He has an interesting mix , doesn't he, of the deep desire for the scientific in the sense of passive observation (as he describes Bombadil for example: "...a particular embodying of pure (real) natural science: the spirit that desires knowledge of other things, their history and nature, because they are 'other' and wholly independent of the enquiring mind, a spirit coeval with the rational mind, and entirely unconcerned with 'doing' anything with the knowledge: Zoology and Botany not Cattle-breeding and agriculture." (#153)

So science here is pure learning: without affecting change upon what it studies. It relates to what he says about the effects of Mortality on sub-creation: "especially as it affects art and the creative (or, as I should say, sub-creative) desire which seems to have no biological function, and to be apart from the satisfaction of plain ordinary biological life, with which, in our world, is indeed usually at strife." Again, science as learning and not as a function of biological life or as interfering with the patterns of life within nature and outside of ourselves. And the Fall comes about when "the sub-creator wishes to be Lord and God of his private creation."



noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Sep 19 2013, 5:03pm

Post #8 of 58 (322 views)
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For England? [In reply to] Can't Post


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** On his desire for creating an "English" myth: "Also - and here I hope I shall not sound absurd - I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own (bound up with its tongue and soil), not of the quality that I sought, and found (as an ingredient) in legends of other lands. There was Greek, and Celtic, and Romance, Germanic, Scandinavian, and Finnish (which greatly affected me); but nothing English, save impoverished chap-book stuff. Of course there was and is all the Arthurian world, but powerful as it is, it is imperfectly naturalized, associated with the soil of Britain but not with English; and does not replace what I felt to be missing. For one thing its 'faerie' is too lavish, and fantastical, incoherant and repetitive...
"Do not laugh! But once upon a time (my crest has long since fallen) I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogenic, to the level of romantic fairy-story - the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing splendor from the vast backcloths - which I could dedicate simply to: to England; to my country."
So in summation, JRRT's assesment of what suited the English myth would be more spare, more based in reality, coherent and clear ("somewhat cool and clear, be redolent of our 'air'...and, while possessing [if I could achieve it] the fair elusive beauty that some call Celtic...") and singular, not repetitive . He speaks of levels of tale and scale, with a framework (like stages with their sceneries) uniting them. So, let's start with a straightforward question: based on his goals, and what he achieved, how close to or far from the mark do you feel he is?


I think he created an astounding amount of deep-seeming mythology for one man.

But The Silmarillion (or the Middle-earth works generally) don't seem particularly English to me:
I don't see them as being about England
They don't seem to me to be the kind of stories that would have been English had, say, England not been conquered by the Normans.
The characters in the Sil. don't seem English - not more than they might be from any other real life nation, or none at all

Nor do I personally feel that Tolkien's achievement belongs exclusively to England, to the exclusion of other nations. As this site so amply proves, his stories are of international appeal.

What do others think?

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Sep 19 2013, 5:49pm

Post #9 of 58 (307 views)
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Do Fall, Mortality and the Machine seem to be related in this work? [In reply to] Can't Post

Fall, Mortality and the Machine - in that a mortality leads to the urge to sub-create, which can be wonderful or can get out of hand. Then "the machine" is a way to get what you want quicker and quicker - and probably less and less wisely.

The Sil has several cycles of "fall":
1) Melkor and Sauron
2) The Noldor
3) The Numenroeans

Do you think that a point is intended here - that there will necessarily always be more "fallers"?

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


squire
Valinor


Sep 19 2013, 6:29pm

Post #10 of 58 (317 views)
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But that was then, and this is now [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree that the Silmarillion we have has little to do with England. As Tolkien notes in his letter, and as many people wishfully seem to ignore, he no longer (in 1951) believed that his Elvish mythology would fulfill some English national need, and in fact he had not been writing it with that goal in mind for several decades.

Instead, it had become determinedly Elvish, in a manner all his own. But if one reads the early tales and short works that he wrote in the World War I years, one sees a great deal more effort to tie his Elvish tales to England specifically. They are retold via the device of an English mariner (Eriol) arriving in the island of Elvenhome, and parts of Elvenhome are directly identified as being English places, like Tavrobel being Great Haywood and Kortirion being Warwick.

Of course, some elements of the original 'English' conception survived into the substantially reconceived Quenta Silmarillion of the 1930s (the major source of the 1973 published edition). But I don't suppose anyone here would be surprised at the common observation that the Shire of the Hobbits came to replace Tol Eressea of the Elves as the "England" of the later legendarium. Some of the reuses are almost comic, such as the idea (recounted in HoME 2, p. 295 ff.) that the mariner Eriol had two sons, Horsa and Hengest, who crossed the sea and settled the island that would become England - while in the LotR appendices we learn that two hobbit brothers Marcho and Blanco Fallohide crossed the Brandywine and settled the (very English) land that would become the Shire. As Shippey has noted, Horsa and Hengest as well as Marcho and Blanco are all names that derived from Old English words for horses; and of course both these legends of Tolkien's consciously recapitulate the legendary migration to England by the Anglo-Saxons, led by the brothers Horsa and Hengest.

It's interesting that in this letter Tolkien indulges in nostalgia for his earlier but long-abandoned conception of the role his legends might play, while neglecting to mention the thorough recycling of this bold idea that he was indulging in with his newer ('Third Age') Middle-earth in the 1930s and 1940s.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Sep 19 2013, 9:00pm

Post #11 of 58 (307 views)
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Why the nostalgia? [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes it is interesting. Do you think Tolkien is playing the "English eccentric" card a bit? It is, after all, a sales pitch!

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


CaptainMorgan
The Shire


Sep 19 2013, 9:13pm

Post #12 of 58 (311 views)
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Arrrrrrr! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
He speaks of levels of tale and scale, with a framework (like stages with their sceneries) uniting them. So, let's start with a straighforward question: based on his goals, and what he achieved, how close to or far from the mark do you feel he is?



Arrr! Verra close, milady!!

Because the Fellowship is burdened with the responsibility of bearing the Ring and because its presence attracts evil, the greatest threat to the Fellowship and its mission comes not from without but within. The hero must realize that he can become a monster. The two books of the Fellowship trace the process of this realization: the first book centers on the presentation of evil as external and physical, requiring physical heroism to combat it; and the second book centers on the presentation of evil as internal and spiritual, requiring a spiritual heroism to combat it. The hero matures by coming to understand the character of good and evil—specifically, by descending into an underworld and then ascending into an overworld, a natural one in the first book and a supernatural one in the second. These two levels correspond to the two levels—Germanic and Christian—of Beowulf and The Hobbit. For Frodo, as for Beowulf and Bilbo, the ultimate enemy is himself.
-Jane Chance, Tolkien’s Arrrrrrrt, er, Art



In Reply To
**JRRT extensively addresses his view of the nature of literature as 'escape' in On Fairy Stories. He also addresses it here in the Letter:
"For another and more important thing: it is involved in, and explicitly contains the Christian religion. For reasons which I will not elaborate, that seems to me fatal. Myth and fairy-story must, as all art, reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error), but not explicit, not in the known of the primary 'real' world. (...And I will not repeat to you what I tried to say in my essay, which you read.") [Note: I believe the reference here is to 'On Fairy Stories'.]



Er... mebbee Mythopoeia?:

"...There is no firmament,
only a void, unless a jewelled tent
myth-woven and elf-patterned; and no earth,
unless the mother's womb whence all have birth."





In Reply To
So here is, in his own words, the rationale for creating a non-Christian cosmogony; do you find this approach unusual for someone whose real-life faith was very strong, or not?



There be William Blake’s Fall of Albion in The Four Zoas.

There also be HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, which seems t’ be based on real-life *lack* o’ faith.



In Reply To
Falls seem to drive the tales forward, don't they?



Fall forw’rd, spring back. Or is’t fall back, spring forw’rd?
Th’ Devil with Daylight Savin’s’ Time!!



In Reply To
Why do you think JRRT felt that a fall was needed as the basis for a mythos?



Hasta be fer th’ basis o’ “a fundamentally religious and Catholic” mythos.

Lookit the Greeks an’ Romans: Th’ fall o’ Daedelus, th’ fall o’ Troy, th’ fall o’ Haphaestus, th’ fall o’ Prometheus.

Lots o' both fallin' an' fallen.



In Reply To
**His perceptions of the uses of Allegory I find interesting, laid out, as it were like a choice: write a story full of 'life' and be hounded with armchair analysts (whoever would that be?) forever, propounding theories and perceived connections. Or write a clear allegory - but accept that the tale, as just a tale, will simply remain on the paper?



Allegory = Zero Tolerance fer interpretation.

An’ Zero Tolerance = Zero Thinkin’.



In Reply To
Is that truly the two options available to writers of fantasy?



There be slash.



In Reply To
And do you think that affected his choices in not creating an obtrusively Christian universe?



I think he be wantin’ ta figure out why Evil existed in th’ world, but th’ answer in Christianity is “God’s Will”, so he hasta go outside Christianity t’ find th’ answer, but instead o’ followin’ Nietzsche’s extreme “[Th’ Philosophic] God Be Dead” tack o’ he made up his own cosmology wit’ Eru.



In Reply To
The phrase, "Fall, Mortality and the Machine." In the sense of the entire legendarium, do all these elements relate to the various races and tales, the great 'backdrop' story of Arda - or can you see it as the summation of the journey of Man alone?





They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones. They can tunnel and mine as well as any but the most skilled dwarves, when they take the trouble, though they are usually untidy and dirty. Hammers, axes, swords, daggers, pickaxes, tongs, and also instruments of torture, they make very well, or get other people to make to their design, prisoners and slaves that have to work till they die for want of air and light. It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, and also not working with their own hands more than they could help; but in those days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far.
-The Hobbit, Chapter 4, Over Hill and Under Hill


In Reply To
Or something else?



We all be goblins posin’ as orcs pretendin’ to be Uruk-Hia.



In Reply To
"I have not used 'magic' consistently...but the Elves are there (in my tales) to demonstrate the difference." He refers to the 'magic' of the Elves as Art: with the quick and complete object of sub-creation. Later the 'magic' of the Enemy is equated with the Machine, and Domination. So where does "Magic" fit, in this scheme, and how does it relate to the 'magic' of other works and authors?



This LOGOS holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it, both before hearing it and when they have first heard it. For though all things come to be in accordance with this LOGOS, humans are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set out, distinguishing each in accordance with its nature and saying how it is. But other people fail to notice what they do when awake, just as they forget what they do while asleep.
-Heraclitus, The Fragments of the Presocratics

There also be “logos spermatikos”, but family board.



In Reply To
**"I would draw some of the tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. Absurd." (A small personal confession: I love and feel so much sincerety in his use of the word "Absurd!" that when I write it or say it, I feel like I ought to attribute it to JRRT, like a quote.) Tolkien seems at times to be generally open to the idea of filmed adaptations (as long as they were not 'Disnified.') What are your thoughts on this statement, both about the man and the concept of 'other minds and hands'.



I think if he was finally able t' finish The Silmarillion he just might have been more open to such , but since he was ne’er able t’ satisfy himself how could he e’er accept th’ additions o’ others?


These be great questions, lassy!!


YO HO HO, A LIPEY LIBER FWEE
-Captain Edward Dregg

A pirate always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason.
-Captain JP Morgan


Meneldor
Tol Eressea


Sep 20 2013, 12:17am

Post #13 of 58 (292 views)
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One point, Captain... [In reply to] Can't Post

As a staunch Catholic, I doubt JRRT believed the existence of evil is God's will. Christianity teaches that evil is man's will, not God's.


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 20 2013, 1:49am

Post #14 of 58 (278 views)
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Thoughts back Rembrethil [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Firstly, I think that his efforts were quite close to what he wanted in an "English" mythos. There is a palpable Anglo-Saxon influence that impresses itself upon me.The illustration of Beorn's hall recalls the idea of Beowulf's feasting hall. Finally, Rohan epitomizes this cultural effect. The Golden Hall, feasting, poetic histories, and storied banners, perfectly encapsulate my visions of Saxony. And I would have responded sooner except for this dratted cold...I love reading your ideas as usual Rem. I agree that visually the Rohirrim give us a transplanted view of a Saxon type of horsed culture (with a Norse flavor, perhaps to their sonorous songs?) The depictions of Eorl the Young charging into battle remind me of both the Bayeux tapestry and the treasures at Sutton Hoo in the descriptions of the animal-themed and knotwork styles of adornment of the arms and flags of Rohan.

On the second point, I would repeat a sentiment that I have stated elsewhere. How interesting is a story about 'perfect' people, living 'perfect' lives, and always doing the right thing, nothing ever happening out of the ordinary? This may be enough for a Hobbit, but certainly not for Great Tales, nor legends. How would we know there is a higher path, if we always take that high road? If every man lived on the mountain, we would never know the joys of the summer meadows. What good is a protagonist without someone to oppose him? The best stories are not tales of perfect people, but of those who make the mistakes, and need to resolve them. That is the very element of plot--a problem that needs to be overcome. A 'fall' is essential to any story, so that the characters may climb back to that place whence they had came, or to reach a new level of satisfaction in life. So I see your take on the 'fall' as a literary function? I agree and I think that in cohesion with JRRT's faith the writer, and the writer's ear and sensibility, played a large part on that assertion. And we see it used plot wise many times, interspersed with free will as the remedy (or poison: charcters choice!)

As to non-Christian element, I say this: our dear Professor had a strong and healthy faith. He had things that he held to be true, and by faith, knew they were true. Truth is true, no matter the circumstances, and ignorance of the precise philosophical terms and minutiae, doesn't preclude the expression of it in the common person's life. A child can help another in pain, not because there is a Golden Rule/Karma/Some religious leader taught them that they should, but because it feels right, with a total absence of any religious influence or teaching. Tolkien seemed to have injected this grounding factor as, what I will call, fate, into the lives of his characters. That fate bound them to the Great Music's pattern. They cannot stray too far from truth/good/what ever have you, without a conscious effort to reject it and proceed in a different path. Truth can be found in many places, Christianity teaches kindness, and other religious systems may do the same. Does that mean it is wrong to be kind, because one belief system doesn't hold a monopoly on it? Isn't it a bit vain to suppose that only one person can hold truth, and that you cannot possess only a part of it? Men can be evil in one area, yet kind in another. We can pick and choose the elements of truth that we accept. We can draw good lessons from LotR. Not necessarily trying to get messages from the 'Valar', looking for the 'Secret Fire', or believing that the world was made by Music.( Some of that can get you committed!!Wink), but learning about friendship, honor, duty, and nobility. The world would benefit from this, even if we cannot get them to LIKE reading the books, or worship Eru. Tolkien has woven universal truths within his narrative, and these truths are free to cross many barriers: physical, national, religious, ideological. Name one place on Earth, and you can bet your life that there is a Tolkien fan there. What he refers to as the tales that 'reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth." (And wait, you don't believe the cosmogony? You know, we burn heretics her in the RR. Just saying. Laugh Crazy)

On Allegory, there is a natural distaste in the human mind for browbeating, and belabouring of facts. We are all naturally skeptic, just tell a child that E=mc2, and they will ask that age-old question--"Why?" OK, maybe after they say "WHAT??"Tongue. Tolkien has given us a narrative, in which we can choose in many cases, what the interpretation is. We all agree who the Heroes and Villains are, but the abstract interpretation are left to us. Naturally skeptic - and natural puzzled solvers? The lure of the distant meaning, the deep interpretation? Hmmm, similar to the jealousy of the Elves of the unknown fate of Man...

The ''Fall, Mortality, and the Machine'' all sum up the motivation and settings of Tolkien's characters.The 'Fall' gives the original setting, an interesting thing that grabs our attention, or the struggle of Ainu, Elf, Dwarf, Hobbit, or Man. Mortality provides much motivation for Men and Elves, their rejection or misconceptions about it. It also gives a point for the Villains to work from. It could also be seen as the timescale of the story to be told, the plot. Morgoth and Sauron both twisted the meaning to gain support from men, and possibly exploited Elves' immortality to create the terrible servants of evil, orcs The 'Machine' is just an expression of power, some of the Ainur,(Melkor and Sauron figure prominently) and Free Peoples, like us, seek to move upward in life, this providing more of a motivation for characters, mortal and immortal. Here we have setting, plot, and motivation summed up, the essentials of any story. And Machine here too, conveniently tying in to the modern world, the spread of machination, as the modern form of dehumanization and how, maybe in modern terms, the lure of profit is the bait, the springes to catch us as woodcocks, into buying into the change?

On 'magic', I would equate it with the natural abilities, and extensions of these, in the native powers of the characters. Arthur C. Clark had a good explanation to which I subscribe. The 'magic' is not a supernatural kind, but a deeper connection with a power beyond the common knowledge. i like to think that the Hobbits could have forged their own Rings of Power, if they had had the knowledge or will to. There might be an interplay of the secret knowledge and native power in the use of 'magic', but the case of Frodo and Bilbo being able to use the One Ring disinclines me to accept this as true. It was dangerous to them, because they were dealing with a greater power, but it seemed to require no skill to use it, excepting their inability master it's power fully. Interesting, as the Elves 'natural' power is Art (their magic) and the Enemy's natural power seems to be Domination (so MAGIC in the sense of rapid utilization and subjugation of others). In discussing the Three, JRRT says that is the closets the Elves came to 'magic and the Machine': though Art in effect, they still imply the domination of something outside themselves...

On the topic of Tolkien's grand intent. He sketched out a grand scheme of things to write, a grand ambition that he sadly never finished. Now this statement tells me that he was not a perfectionist with one view, or aim to interpretation. He was a niggler, and wanted to best communicate the story, but I wouldn't see him too concerned with 'canon' and 'non-canon' issues in his writings. He saw that the stories needed to live and grow, in order to survive. Locking them down, and limiting us to an Authorized mythology would consign his work to appeal to a narrower audience, unable to adapt to the days and times. In many mythologies, the stories have changed drastically and grown to have many versions, and I think that natural process was something that he wanted to come from his works. He could never finish the complete history of Middle-Earth (It would then, not be a story), but he filled what he could for us, leaving a greater land open to our imaginations and speculation. This was his greatest gift to us, his faithful supporters, the freedom to dream, and transport ourselves to another world, Middle-Earth. We had asked this question a while back (thank you NoWiz!) and came to a rough consensus that the works may never have been 'finished' to his complete satisfaction; but I think he was content to leave parts of it implied, or 'lost to time' in giving it versimilitude (just as so many of our stories are lost). And we have his words about such things as the Blue Wizards, and their fate being unknown; and those tricky and undetailed Cats of Queen Beruthiel. Do you see it like his use of allegory, his growth process and his gaps don't 'hammer' the story home, and encourage the imaginative reader to, as you say totally transport themselves, and even to wander even further than the initial fantasy?Talk about a way to keep us coming back! Cool

Sorry for the wall of text and ramblings..... It was a bit of stream of consciousness....Always pleased to read your SOC style, Rem!


Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 20 2013, 1:53am

Post #15 of 58 (284 views)
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Perfect summation Furincurunir! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Fall, Mortality and the Machine - in that a mortality leads to the urge to sub-create, which can be wonderful or can get out of hand. Then "the machine" is a way to get what you want quicker and quicker - and probably less and less wisely.

The Sil has several cycles of "fall":
1) Melkor and Sauron
2) The Noldor
3) The Numenroeans

Do you think that a point is intended here - that there will necessarily always be more "fallers"?




Definitely 'the Machine' is the quickest and most expedient way to enforce one's will - though as he points out, not always with bad initial intent. Like Sauron lingering to repair neglected ME...and drifting over time into tyranny.

Would you classify any of the actions of the Valar as a 'fall'?

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 20 2013, 1:55am

Post #16 of 58 (280 views)
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Hmmm. fascinating Squire. I would second NoWiz's query... [In reply to] Can't Post

...do you think the 'English Mythos' concept, if so diluted, was either a selling point in the context of #131; or an effort to engage the publishers, either emotionally or in a purely nationalistic way (given it was still the post-war era?)

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 20 2013, 2:24am

Post #17 of 58 (285 views)
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Ye please me mightily with yer celebratory lingo today Cap'n! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Arrr! Verra close, milady!!

Because the Fellowship is burdened with the responsibility of bearing the Ring and because its presence attracts evil, the greatest threat to the Fellowship and its mission comes not from without but within. The hero must realize that he can become a monster. The two books of the Fellowship trace the process of this realization: the first book centers on the presentation of evil as external and physical, requiring physical heroism to combat it; and the second book centers on the presentation of evil as internal and spiritual, requiring a spiritual heroism to combat it. The hero matures by coming to understand the character of good and evil—specifically, by descending into an underworld and then ascending into an overworld, a natural one in the first book and a supernatural one in the second. These two levels correspond to the two levels—Germanic and Christian—of Beowulf and The Hobbit. For Frodo, as for Beowulf and Bilbo, the ultimate enemy is himself.
-Jane Chance, Tolkien’s Arrrrrrrt, er, Art


This bit ye used above touches on the concept of the dual nature of the worlds, our scurvy real world (physicality) and the world of the Faery (spirituality): to which we can escape but not dwell overlong (unless we get on JUST the right ship? Yes?


In Reply To

Er... mebbee Mythopoeia? P'raps, p'raps...It actually isn't stated anywhere which essay he is referring to, I was going by guesswork, based on the amount of OFS bein' dedicated to the dual worlds.

"...There is no firmament,
only a void, unless a jewelled tent
myth-woven and elf-patterned; and no earth,
unless the mother's womb whence all have birth."





In Reply To
So here is, in his own words, the rationale for creating a non-Christian cosmogony; do you find this approach unusual for someone whose real-life faith was very strong, or not?

There be William Blake’s Fall of Albion in The Four Zoas.

There also be HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, which seems t’ be based on real-life *lack* o’ faith.
Both excellent examples, polarized as 'twere...



In Reply To
Falls seem to drive the tales forward, don't they?

Fall forw’rd, spring back. Or is’t fall back, spring forw’rd?
Th’ Devil with Daylight Savin’s’ Time!!
Dratted confusin'. I think its the foolish man with the silver springs forward for buyin' the round, and the man with the brains falls back.


In Reply To
Why do you think JRRT felt that a fall was needed as the basis for a mythos?

Hasta be fer th’ basis o’ “a fundamentally religious and Catholic” mythos.
Lookit the Greeks an’ Romans: Th’ fall o’ Daedelus, th’ fall o’ Troy, th’ fall o’ Haphaestus, th’ fall o’ Prometheus.
Lots o' both fallin' an' fallen. I'm countin' the votes, to see how many we get for Literary Tactic and how many we get for Philosophy. Noted Cap'n!

In Reply To
**His perceptions of the uses of Allegory I find interesting, laid out, as it were like a choice: write a story full of 'life' and be hounded with armchair analysts (whoever would that be?) forever, propounding theories and perceived connections. Or write a clear allegory - but accept that the tale, as just a tale, will simply remain on the paper?

Allegory = Zero Tolerance fer interpretation.

An’ Zero Tolerance = Zero Thinkin’.
Love it in equation form. Smile



In Reply To
Is that truly the two options available to writers of fantasy?

There be slash. I do love some Guns n Roses. (What a good fit for Pirate Valentine's Day!)



In Reply To
And do you think that affected his choices in not creating an obtrusively Christian universe?

I think he be wantin’ ta figure out why Evil existed in th’ world, but th’ answer in Christianity is “God’s Will”, so he hasta go outside Christianity t’ find th’ answer, but instead o’ followin’ Nietzsche’s extreme “[Th’ Philosophic] God Be Dead” tack o’ he made up his own cosmology wit’ Eru. Distilling essential truths...like good rum.



In Reply To
The phrase, "Fall, Mortality and the Machine." In the sense of the entire legendarium, do all these elements relate to the various races and tales, the great 'backdrop' story of Arda - or can you see it as the summation of the journey of Man alone?

They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones. They can tunnel and mine as well as any but the most skilled dwarves, when they take the trouble, though they are usually untidy and dirty. Hammers, axes, swords, daggers, pickaxes, tongs, and also instruments of torture, they make very well, or get other people to make to their design, prisoners and slaves that have to work till they die for want of air and light. It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, and also not working with their own hands more than they could help; but in those days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far.
-The Hobbit, Chapter 4, Over Hill and Under Hill


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Or something else?



We all be goblins posin’ as orcs pretendin’ to be Uruk-Hia.
Brilliant.



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"I have not used 'magic' consistently...but the Elves are there (in my tales) to demonstrate the difference." He refers to the 'magic' of the Elves as Art: with the quick and complete object of sub-creation. Later the 'magic' of the Enemy is equated with the Machine, and Domination. So where does "Magic" fit, in this scheme, and how does it relate to the 'magic' of other works and authors?

This LOGOS holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it, both before hearing it and when they have first heard it. For though all things come to be in accordance with this LOGOS, humans are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set out, distinguishing each in accordance with its nature and saying how it is. But other people fail to notice what they do when awake, just as they forget what they do while asleep.
-Heraclitus, The Fragments of the Presocratics

There also be “logos spermatikos”, but family board.
Yes that bit trips me up sometime'...especially waxing about handsome Dwarven kings. Anyways, on topic...that bit above reminds me of how JRRT relates how the Edain had troubles kennin' what Ulmo had to say: its outside their experience, as it were. And Ulmo's was no Magic of the Machine, but nature itself: and maybe the Pirates are the last to really understand the good Ulmo these days?


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**"I would draw some of the tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. Absurd." (A small personal confession: I love and feel so much sincerety in his use of the word "Absurd!" that when I write it or say it, I feel like I ought to attribute it to JRRT, like a quote.) Tolkien seems at times to be generally open to the idea of filmed adaptations (as long as they were not 'Disnified.') What are your thoughts on this statement, both about the man and the concept of 'other minds and hands'.


I think if he was finally able t' finish The Silmarillion he just might have been more open to such , but since he was ne’er able t’ satisfy himself how could he e’er accept th’ additions o’ others? Also noted! I must admit part of me own feel is that in a man who spoke against the embalming of ME, even by the Wise, p'raps he could have accepted his works movin' into new times, for new ears and eyes...bit fanciful? Maybe!

These be great questions, lassy!! And great answers! Pleased to see you here Cap'n!


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(Note: had to do some editing - fonts were all wacky! But I think its all here...) Pirate

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








(This post was edited by Brethil on Sep 20 2013, 2:32am)


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 20 2013, 2:34am

Post #18 of 58 (274 views)
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Love your most *Fitting* Avatar Meneldor !!!!! [In reply to] Can't Post


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As a staunch Catholic, I doubt JRRT believed the existence of evil is God's will. Christianity teaches that evil is man's will, not God's.




Indeed - evil as the function of Free will instead? Foreseen in the Song but not proscribed?

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 20 2013, 3:15am

Post #19 of 58 (269 views)
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More excellent points Terazed! [In reply to] Can't Post


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He also thought that the only possibility of achieving happiness was though aesthetic contemplation, the world otherwise can only be felt as an unquenchable striving that can never be fulfilled.
This aesthetic contemplation strikes me as precisely what the elves are seeking. I can think of several descriptions of aesthetic contemplation that Tolkien uses in regards to elves especially in Rivendell and Lothlorien. Often there is an accompanying line about how time is different in those lands. Here is an excellent one:


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At first the beauty of the melodies and the interwoven words in the Elven-tongue, even though he understood them little, held him in a spell, as soon as he began to attend them. Almost it seemed that the words took shape, and visions of far lands and bright thing that he never yet imagined opened out before him; and the firelit hall became like a golden mist above the seas of foam that sighed upon the margins of the world. Then the enchantment became more and more dreamlike, until he felt that an endless river of swelling gold and silver was flowing over him, too multitudinous for its pattern to be comprehended; it became part of the throbbing air about him, and it drenched and drowned him. Swiftly he sank under its shining weight into a deep realm of sleep. There he wandered long in a dream of music that turned into running water, and then suddenly into a voice.


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Do I alone hear this melody so wondrously and gently sounding from within him, in bliss lamenting, all-expressing, gently reconciling, piercing me, soaring aloft, its sweet echoes resounding about me? Are they gentle aerial waves ringing out clearly, surging around me? Are they billows of blissful fragrance? As they seethe and roar about me, shall I breathe, shall I give ear? Shall I drink of them, plunge beneath them? Breathe my life away in sweet scents? In the heaving swell, in the resounding echoes, in the universal stream of the world-breath - to drown, to founder - unconscious -utmost rapture!


Particularly in a universe founded by a Song, both of these has a deep meaning doesn't it? I love absolutely all the connections you have made here, but this connection stands out relating to JRRT particularly well. The above quote, with the words of the Elven tongue bringing forth the pictures of unknown vistas, like Eru's voice did during Creation for the Valar...and the second quote, almost feels like the point of view of a listener, yet potentially the Creator, the Musician/Magician, as well. Well I think I may have digressed a little there but that is my favorite quote from Tolkien which always makes me think about music. Anyway to get back to the point, I hope that I expressed a little of the concept of elven "magic" as noumenon and machine magic as phenomenon. I perhaps should once again state that noumenon is outside of time and is a happy, blissful contemplation while phenomenon is an unhappy and ultimately futile striving for goal that either can not be achieved or if achieved grants only a brief instant of pleasure before the striving starts anew. I think you have struck gold here - it elaborates more upon the where he says, "This desire is at once wedded to a passionate love of the real primary world, and hence filled with the sense of mortality, yet unsatisfied by it." Lovely digression - thank you! And Music, in JRRT's world, is the primary Magic I think; interesting that you pointed out that Shopenhauer feels it the closest we can feel to the noumenon; as great metaphor, I think, for innate power of Firstborn (and less so the Edain) touching upon and in common with the Divine in the legendarium. Perhaps see that is how it links to how we discussed Bombadil too...his natural gifts of the noumenon, and his heightened perceptions, evidenced in is his songs?



Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








(This post was edited by Brethil on Sep 20 2013, 3:16am)


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 20 2013, 3:20am

Post #20 of 58 (302 views)
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What about as ancient history? [In reply to] Can't Post


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I don't see them as being about England
They don't seem to me to be the kind of stories that would have been English had, say, England not been conquered by the Normans.
The characters in the Sil. don't seem English - not more than they might be from any other real life nation, or none at all




Do you see his perception of England as a people that could have arisen from these tales?

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Sep 20 2013, 3:01pm

Post #21 of 58 (261 views)
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Or... [In reply to] Can't Post


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One point, Captain... by Meneldor Post: As a staunch Catholic, I doubt JRRT believed the existence of evil is God's will. Christianity teaches that evil is man's will, not God's.


... evil exists in the form of the choice that goes against God and Man chooses evil, just as he chose the apple in the biblical fall of Adam. Man chose knowledge over paradise, exercising his free will to go against what God had given him in the quest for "more". Jesus' parables are in couched in terms of choice - the path to redemption comes from choosing the correct path.

Tolkien's characters repeatedly strive for more for self, ignoring what had been given to them as never being enough. Their choice is their fall from grace, their original sin.

It starts the story (sets up the conflict ) of either the struggle against God's will or the attempt to correct the path.

“Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Sep 20 2013, 3:57pm

Post #22 of 58 (269 views)
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I can't work it out... [In reply to] Can't Post

On the one hand, Tolkien may merely be recounting his early motivations, and my literally mean that he came to regard the "literature for England" idea as "absurd".

On the other hand, understatement and mild self-deprecation were very much the style of Tolkien's time - so possibly he was expecting his reader to discount a certain amount of that and pick up nuances that are puzzling me.

Certainly, nationalism can play all the way down to today for example, discussion of George RR Martin as "The American Tolkien". That's also something I don't "get" (well I do really , because I understand it to be a provocative marketing statement designed to stir up discussion about Martin's work)

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 20 2013, 4:22pm

Post #23 of 58 (264 views)
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Especially starting with 'But once upon a time...' as he does [In reply to] Can't Post


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On the one hand, Tolkien may merely be recounting his early motivations, and my literally mean that he came to regard the "literature for England" idea as "absurd".

On the other hand, understatement and mild self-deprecation were very much the style of Tolkien's time - so possibly he was expecting his reader to discount a certain amount of that and pick up nuances that are puzzling me.

Certainly, nationalism can play all the way down to today for example, discussion of George RR Martin as "The American Tolkien". That's also something I don't "get" (well I do really , because I understand it to be a provocative marketing statement designed to stir up discussion about Martin's work)




in that paragraph. And using the verbs 'would' and 'should' in a speculative sense...perhaps the perspective in 1951 would be different than the perspective in, say, 1970 (or today if he still lived.) I found that in 1971 in Letter #328, he said, "Of course the book was written to please myself (at different levels), and as an experiment in the arts of long narrative, and of inducing 'Secondary Belief". It was written slowly and with great care for detail, & finally emerged as a Frameless Picture: a searchlight, as it were, on a brief episode in History, and on a small part of our Middle-earth, surrounded by the glimmer of limitless extensions in time and space. Very well: that may explain to some extent why it 'feels' like history..." No mention here of the mythos for England; it may have been the relationship between himself and the reader...yet it seems possible that in this retrospective look, England rather got incorporated into the frameless picture versus the picture being framed around England.

Yet whether the self-deprecation is sincere or disarming, I think item by item in the list he achieved all of those things.

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Sep 20 2013, 4:26pm

Post #24 of 58 (265 views)
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I can imagine... [In reply to] Can't Post

I can imagine a fictional modern England where Beren and Aragorn are folk heroes of traditional tales (and might turn out to be based on actual past events). But I don't see a sense in which these characters are particularly English (as in clearly not Scandinavian or French or Welsh or German).

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Sep 20 2013, 5:42pm

Post #25 of 58 (243 views)
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A confusion between literature and rugby union? [In reply to] Can't Post

Ah , I think I've realised what it is about the "...for England" thing that seems odd.

Is there some confusion here between literature and rugby union?

To a supporter of the England Rugby Union team, England tries (touchdowns) are very enjoyable. Tries scored by the opposing team have to be enjoyed through gritted teeth, no matter their brilliance, because they damage the prospects of Our Team. One can be more neutral about scores in The games of the Six Nations tournament which don't involve England: possibly it would benefit England's progress in the tournament if, say, Wales beat Scotland (or the other way around, depending upon the situation in a particular tournament) but it's not quite as nerve wracking. The exception is that all tries scored against France are automatically enjoyable Smile

But literature is not like that surely? It would be rather odd to enjoy tales from Ireland, Wales, Finland or Brittany and be thinking "I hope England score soon".



Does that make sense, or shall I just go of in a corner and sing "Swing low, sweet chariot"?

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"

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